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Power Pads For Tennis – The Hidden Pieces of Leather on Roger Federer’s Racquet

What do tennis racket power pads do? Which players use power pads?

On my recent post about the various types of tennis string available, one of the comments got into talking about vibration dampeners and why Roger Federer doesn't use one.

The reason you'll never see Federer fiddling around with a small piece of rubber every time he pulls a freshly strung racquet out of his bag is because he has an alternative: power pads.

While power pads aren't a like for like replacement for a dampener, they do have a similar effect. In his early days the Swiss did use a dampener alongside power pads but according to Roger, one day he stopped using it and got used to playing without it. Even though the sound without a dampener bugged him at first.

What are Power Pads?

Federer Power Pads

Power pads are small pieces of leather that separate the strings from the plastic outer part of the grommet. As you can see from the picture above on the freshly strung RF97 Autograph racquets they're typically installed in the throat of the racquet on the main strings.

The RF97 Autograph pictures come from Ron Yu's Instagram. Ron works for Priority1 and has been stringing Federer's racquets since the mid-2000s. Several pros have used their specialist racquet stringing services over the years with Tim Henman being one of the first I can remember. The Priority1 team travel to all the mandatory events and some of the smaller tournaments too.

Most players who've only ever known modern graphite frames have absolutely zero clue what these small leather squares are. However, for the older player who grew up using wooden racquets, they can be a familiar sight.

That's because power pads were originally used to protect natural gut strings on wooden racquets. Natural gut strings are a delicate string and can break easily. The wooden racquets of yesteryear didnโ€™t have V-shaped throats like you see today. Instead, they were a solid one-piece construction.

This design meant that the centre main strings, the most important on the racquet, were strung at more acute angles rather than in a straight line up through the middle of the frame.

Take a look at the iconic Dunlop Maxply racquet below, complete with power pads, for an example of what I'm talking about:

dunlop maxply powerpads

The wooden grommets were often sharp and splinter prone which made the likelihood of the natural gut fraying or snapping all too possible.

Thus came the power pad, this small square of leather pulls the string away from the frame to protect it and allow the stringer to thread the string at a straighter, less acute angle.

Which Professional Players use Power Pads?

sampras power pads

Power pads are scarcely used on the ATP or WTA Tour these days and the only current players I know of that use them are Roger Federer, Grigor Dimitrov (surprise, surprise) and Juan Martin Del Potro.

The reason they're so rare is that there's not really much need for them. Roger Federer uses them because he's had them in since the 1990s and is used to the feeling they provide. There'd be no advantages to taking them out, so he's chosen to stick with what he knows.

Previous users of power pads in non-wooden racquets include Pete Sampras, Mark Philippoussis, Marat Safin, Tommy Haas, Cedric Pioline, Gabriela Sabatini and Mary Pierce. 

If you know of other players using them or who did use them, drop me a comment below so I can them to the list.

Do Power Pads have any other impact on a tennis racquets performance?

Power Pads

For the modern player who takes to the court with around 8 racquets in their bag, preservation of the natural gut string isn't really a concern. So whilst power pads still do help increase the longevity of the gut, their modern-day usage is to alter the feel of the string bed.

By wedging a piece of leather between the string and the grommet, the pad dampens the string bed by reducing vibration upon impact, This removes the need for a silicone vibration dampener to attach to between the strings.

While the dampening feel is widely acknowledged, the other change that some people believe is that power pads increase the sweet spot of the frame because the pads elongate the main strings.

I'm not sure if I buy that myself and having used power pads I've never felt any sort of difference. I've never liked the term sweet spot anyway as to me the spot is the same size on all racquets – it's when the ball hits the spot where there's zero twisting of the frame and is essentially just an imaginary dot on the racquet where two lines cross.

Where can I buy power pads for my tennis racquet?

Power Pads

Power pads can be bought online (although not many places stock them) so if you fancy giving them a whirl it won't break the bank. Some are pre-cut, other retailers will sell you a leather strip to cut your own.

You can also make your own as there's no secret sauce used in their manufacturing. All you need is an old piece of leather like a belt or even a leather grip for a racquet. Cut it up into squares (or slight rectangles) and you have your own power pads. Dimensions should be approx 0.7cm x 1cm with a thickness of 0.3 to 0.5cm approx. 

If you buy into the theory power pads increase power, then the thicker the pad, the more elongated the string will be resulting in extra power. Based on that, the next time I restring I'm going to use two pads for each string and see if I can feel any difference.

To install them, simply position the pads between the grommet holes in the throat wrap the string around the pad, and pull to tension. They are extremely easy to fit, just try to make sure that you have the string aligned in the centre of the pad.

Should you use power pads?

federer power pads prostaff

Yes, why not? If you use a dampener (or even if you don't), there's hardly any cost involved so you may as well give them a go. Compared to a dampener that can fly out during play and take 5 minutes to find, power pads don't have that problem.

You might not like the dampened feeling or you might wonder how you lived without them. I personally like the dampened feeling as it gives more comfort, especially on a stiffer string bed.

Have you used power pads? Let me know your thoughts in the comments if you have.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Federer and tennis in general.

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65 Comments

      1. il faut en mettre pour voir la diffรฉrence, si vous ne sentez rien ,n’en mettez plus, moi j’en met et c’est super, la frappe est plus douce, moins traumatisante pour le bras, il faut que se soit asser epais

    1. oui moi je les utilise, je les fais moi mรชme, avec un grip en cuir que je dรฉcoupe, pour la frime tu peux utiliser un grip fairway

    1. I figured barely anyone knows about them as you can’t see them on TV.

      And I’m sure a lot of people don’t care as a large % of Fed fans have absolutely zero interest in equipment or the sport itself ๐Ÿ˜†

      1. actually I didnt have a clue about why Roger neves uses a dampener… nice one Jon!!!

        I will stick with the dampener for now

        #GoRoger

  1. All modern racquets have round extensions on the throat grommet, so the strings make a large loop on the outside of the frame on that zone. Geometrically it’s not so different from putting leather pads, but leather is softer than plastic, so it may dampen the shock a bit. Plastic doesn’t.

      1. Great article Jonathan.

        I’ve also recently strung my racquet with 3 power pads at the throat. I can definitely feel the difference. I normally play without any dampener on my racquet and there is a noticeable difference of acoustic feedback and vibration coming back to my hand. To me, the dampening feels like it’s in between having a rubber band and having a button as a dampener.

        So far, I’m liking the feel of the string bed with power pads installed, but I will have to play more matches with it for a real thought on them.

  2. Wow I had no idea even such thing exists! Feel great to learn something new, especially related to Fed even though a tiny thing, so thanks Jonathan.

    1. Yeah you can’t see them on TV or live as never really see that part of the racquet so I figured most people would have no idea they existed ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Excellent.
    ยฟWhat are the things Federer uses in the union of the bed-strings? ยฟThey are also some kind of power pads?

    1. String savers. I will do a post on them at some point. They are used to stop the gut notching and fraying when there is friction between the strings.

      1. I have used them at an early stage of my “career”. They were names elastocrosses. They seemed to help to avoid displacement of strings, if strung with low tension.
        I stopped to use them, because they were inclined to spring away during the game and applying them was a lot of work. But I was very proud to have them ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Never heard about them giving extra spin and they are sold as string savers (do you mean, Federer must make savings, but change rackets during the game? ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Maybe another nostalgy?

      2. @Alex – some dampening effect. They stop the strings moving, so in theory they will reduce spin potential on the strings. Doesn’t seem to impact Fed though, he hits at Rafa like RPM’s when he chooses to.

        @PRF Babolat still calls them Elastrocross, they are the ones I use. You must have had a badly strung racquet if you were losing them? I don’t think I have ever had one pop out and they are very simply to apply with the tool they come in…

        For Fed it’s just another why change scenario. He has used them forever and that’s all he has ever known. Stick to the winning formula.

      3. “Stick to the winning formula”.Where the “winning formula” is to be Federer ๐Ÿ˜‰ But you must make it somehow objective. So you need an object, something magic. Because Federer sometimes loses.

        If you count up to 7 before the match and you win and then suddenly you lose, it’s better to think “Ah, I forgot to count to seven”, than frustrate yourself – something must be wrong with Federer ๐Ÿ˜‰

        My father had all the time I can remind, so called “3-system”.

        Before passing the street he was always looking left and right, like everyone (if no speedy car coming), but he made it always 3 times. Should still a speedy car come and kill him, he wouldn’t feel guilty ๐Ÿ˜‰

      4. “Look right, look left, look right again. If it’s all clear, quick march!”
        (I’m showing my age here: that predates the Green Cross Code!)

        Interesting article, thanks, Jon. I don’t remember ever seeing them on my old wooden racquet!

  4. Interesting. I’m surprised how fast the pros seem to find a dampener when switching to a new racket. Or in Novak’s case, after smashing one. Yes, I know the old one goes on the new racket but do they have a side pocket with a bunch of them?
    Equipment plays such a big part at that level. Golf is a sport that has changed dramatically from equipment improvements. Changing golf courses because of it.
    Gee Jonathan, you should give up your day job and write for a tennis magazine.
    Oh, and we are in Paris now, weather wise.

      1. You didn’t have 10 thousand people looking for your lost damper ๐Ÿ˜‰ I see sometimes players losing them during the game and they are found instantly by ballkids or someone else.

        I would recommend you to use your private Eye Hawk to find them ๐Ÿ˜‰

      2. If you see it fly off, you can usually find them quick, it’s when you only catch it out the corner of your eye and have no idea where it went.

  5. I never used power pads and I think, it’s rather some individualism and nostalgy, why Fed uses them.
    But I found something interesting on my Slazenger Victory, featuring original natural gut strings.
    You can see this here https://www.dropbox.com/sh/gmefxwezoyx4c1q/AAB-VUrD8YX6XEICpyrFhWDMa?dl=0, JPG files named Slazenger1 and Slazenger 2. It seems to be a tiny wire on the lower und upper part of the bed.
    Somebody has an idea what could it be?
    And some 20 years ago (when I started to learn tennis from young guys (performance players) I have seen them using common rubber bands instead of a damper. They meant, this works better than any professional damper: Kind of swank I guess ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. I think Fed has kept them purely because he has always used them. Players are very particular about equipment.

      Those strings are called trebling on your Slazenger. They are designed to try and stop the strings moving. Old school.

      I dunno if you do this in Poland, but for deciding who serves, a player usually says to their opponent “rough or smooth” then spins the racquet. Nowadays you use the tie off knot, but it used to be the trebbling with one side rough, the other smooth…

      Agassi used to use a rubber band. I’ve never tried one though.

      1. Wow, Jonathan, you are pure Tennis Encyclopedia.

        Spinning racket to decide who serves is still done in club tennis environment, but we don’t use then “rough or smooth”, because we don’t have trebling on our rackets.

        I don’t know, how looked the routine like, when they used wooden rackets.

        But now that I know, I take my Slazenger next time I play with a friend and ask him โ€œrough or smoothโ€, not offering another option to decide about serve, hahaha … I’m curious I find someone, knowing what it is about ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. Ah what do you use to decide on the spin? Logo up or down?

        We still use rough or smooth, but it’s now where the cross string is tied. So rough on the side where the cut end sticks out, smooth for the other side.

      3. We use the logo on the bottom of the handle. If it’s Wilson, you get W or M.
        You mean the place where the cross has a knot? There are 2 – lower and upper (not always tied on the same side of the bed (maybe stringer’s failure ;))

      4. The end of the string that was clipped when it was tied off will always be on the same side? Unless the stringer takes the racquet out when they have done the mains and turns it over. I wouldn’t do that though as you have uneven forces on the frame, best to leave it sitting snugly in the grips on the machine.

  6. Apparently there is a new App called “Tennistension”. It measures tension between the main and cross strings. It analyzes the sound heard from the “ringing” strings. For hybrid strings as well. No harm in checking it out.

    1. Wow, this works ๐Ÿ™‚ Just purchased, installed and tested. Using standard parameters but tomorrow I will find parameters of my current strings.Given, parameters were not set exactly, the result was not what I expected, but every time the same ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Jon – another mystery for you to write a new article. Why is he changing overgrip every second game and why this unique Gasquent-patent?

    1. Sweat I think. Those tournagrips don’t last long.

      But that is complete overkill. He’s just got into a weird habit with that and feels like he has to do it.

      Perhaps it also relaxes his mind during changeovers?

      1. Yes, OK. but why winding so much on the end of the stick, then ending in the middle of the length of the stick? Maybe some unique technique of holding the racket?

      2. Well he uses a massively flared buttcap so that needs more overgrip to cover it. Check pictures on Google, it’s one of the largest buttcaps going.

        And 1 handed BH, his hand will never touch the top part of the grip. Stan for example only has his overgrips applied 3/4 of the way up the racquet.

  8. Hey Jon, for me a tennis raquet is…. just a tennis raquet. From your two latest posts, didn’t know how much work goes into it and how the smallest details matter. Wow ๐Ÿ™‚ Great posts… little above my head ๐Ÿ™‚

    Wondering what the draw will be like and which day Roger will start, Sunday or Monday??

    1. I guess, Rafa will start first, so depends on in who’s half Fed lands.

      My recommendation for the draw. Let’s draw Thiem to Nadals half – Thiem can defeat Nadal, but easier in semi, not in final. Fed only needs to beat Djoker and we have a niced match-up for the final ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Only needs to beat Djoker??? ONLY needs to beat Djoker???
        Are you kidding me?? Keep Satan as far away from MY Roger ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. I understand. Would you prefer Opelka to beat the Satan and Fed to play Opelka in SF?
      If I was to choose the opponent for Thiem on any stage I would always prefer Djoker before Opelka. It’s not a shame to lose to Djoker, but it’s very unpleasant to lose to Opelka.

      So for you I have another scenario. Let Tsitsipas to beat Opelka on every stage and reach the SF to play Fed there. Better?

      1. Nope…. no fan of Tsitsipas here…. The sooner he is out the better… Actually… also goes for Satan and Rafa (I have another name for him, but I won’t use it here) ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Hello all… as a Fedfan living near Paris as you may remember, just to tell you the craze about this 2019 Roland Garros with Mr Federer himself is growing… in my country… He made himself available for interviews in Frenchย  newspapers (photo on the cover page + a COMPLETE DOUBLE page in le Figaro today with nice pictures) among others, anย  interview on RTL this morning…
    The special edition (l’Equipe hors serie about RF) will be re-issued due to success. As far as I remember, not so much passion from the media and people in gรฉnรฉral for RGย  the three preceding years…
    I have seats for Round 2 for the central court on both days (May 29 and 30). Hope to see the Maestro… Weather forecasts are not good (rain)… please pray for me… and for a good draw for theย  him (7:00 pm Paris time today).

  10. Yes, Roger generates so much buzz. And with that comes $$$. I don’t understand why people don’t get it. They have to put him on center court where ever he goes because of the hoards that are clamoring to see him play. Novak will be in his hotel room smashing rackets right and left about now.

    FBF, I will pray to the sun Gods for you. Enjoy! AND, we are expecting a fan report!

  11. Didn’t notice this before, but now I realized, something like power pads, built-in at the same place under the racket’s head. Must have similar impact like power pads.
    I have in my older Dunlof M-Fil 300 something similar, but it’s flat there.
    You can see this for example here https://www.mistertennis.com/images/Babolat/Racquets/101281_D.jpg
    Looks differently in the newest Pure Strike model, but could not find self-explaining image.

  12. I know. I was a bit behind the trends and I’m wondering now, why they not drop a word about this in descriptions of frames. Maybe because it’s common today and no marketing advantage? Or mass customers not interested in such details?

    1. About the plastic grommets? They don’t have any dampening effect so not much they can say about them. Other than makes it slightly easier to string / less wear on the strings.

      I guess they could say “elongates the string for massive power” not like they don’t bullshit about all the other stuff like BLX and new ways of making the racquets.

  13. I’m wondering too, if they could not built in these extensions a piece of elastic material, if this would be really an advantage. Well, maybe because sometimes too much is less ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. They could but not everyone wants a dampened string bed so you’d be designing a racquet that doesn’t appeal to 50% of your potential customers.

      1. Yeah – “normal” customers go for player’s names or trends (whatever their background).
        Actually I do the same ๐Ÿ˜‰
        Now trying 2 Babolat Pure Strike frames, one with Thiem’s string setup RPM Blast+VS and the other with Fed’s strings (not sure if he currently uses this one) – Wilson Champion Choice Duo.
        Next I should buy 2 Fed’s ProStaff frames and use the same pair of strings.
        Could be interesting but I would need to play 4 times a week, which is hardly possible because of my weekly time frame ๐Ÿ™
        I have still Dunlop M-fil 3HUNDRED, which I like, but just wanted to try to use those from my 2 heroes ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I use the ProStaff 6.0 85 w/poly strung in mid 30’s, and am right at 5.0 level.
    I don’t use a dampener, as I want the feel of the ball strike within the stringbed to be as pure as possible.
    I tried two racquets tensioned identically, one with power pads and one without. For my game personally, I was not a fan. I felt I was losing 2-3% of power generated by strings to the pads. I think there is some energy dissipation into the leather pads that isn’t going into the ball. It’s minute, but it’s there. I cut it out after 2 hours of trial.

    That being said, I imagine that at a higher tension (70lbs for Sampras), the pads wouldn’t do much harm in regards to stealing energy away from the strings since they are already past the plastic deformation point. At the lower tension and looseness of mid 30’s, it’s too much, especially since the flexion is likely elastic deformation.

    Thanks for the article. I have been working through the ranks and have been wondering at higher levels of play if I will need to go up in tension to have better control against harder hitters. If I find myself in the mid/upper 40’s, I will absolutely try power pads again.
    Any thoughts?

    1. Ah cool you are stringing fairly low. I’ve never really gone below 40lbs even with a poly. You could almost string 30lbs by hand ๐Ÿ˜† there is a whole thread on TW about one of their playtesters going down to like 20lbs and loving it, whether he stuck there or not I dunno.

      Maybe you can just carry on with playing what you know regardless if the opponent is a hard hitter. I would just play a few matches and see what happens, if you struggle for control, then up the tension.

      I would have thought the head size and weight of the racquet put you at a disadvantage against a really solid baseliner who can hit big. I always found playing with a PS90 to be awesome in the strike zone but when you are having to hit out the corners at full stretch it’s very tricky.

      1. Based on my experience, you are exactly correct. I thing the swingweight of the PS85 is the largest trouble. When I can set up for a shot, it’s a heavy, blistering rocket and I can peg a corner spot, but when I’m having to run or strike quickly, I often cannot get the headspeed I want to create adequate spin. I spent 2 years customizing (sanding, building grip, weighting, etc) some of the PS RF97s, and really want(ed) to switch to these PS85s full time. I just am not getting enough spin to do quick rips and hit angles like the 97s.
        The weird part is both sets of racquets (85 and 97) are about 373g, 12ptsHL. I haven’t done actual swingweight measurement, but I am certain 85 is greater. Takes a lot more to energy get head moving.

        The thing I am focused on the most- the PS85 allows no room for poor form. You really must throw your hips and body into the shot, or you will not create enough to do anything. With the RF97 you can get away with ‘muscling’ shots with the arm, and can get you out of a pinch. With the 85 it tears the elbow to pieces if you try to muscle it.

        I did see that thread on playtesters a while back… I have gone down to mid 20s but it was in the winter and the ball just sailed almost every shot. I really like the extra time in the stringbed to feel the ball and allow the strings to do some flexing and work for you, instead of you.

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